Cro-Magnons Were Caucasoid, not Negroid

February 26, 2011

There's a fantasy among Afrocentrists that the first Europeans (Cro-Magnons and other Upper Paleolithic peoples) were totally unlike modern Europeans and instead had affinities with Sub-Saharan Africans. They cite Stringer and McKie (1998) who say that some Cro-Magnons "were more like present-day Australians or Africans", and Brace et al. (2005) who argue against continuity between Upper Paleolithic and later Europeans.

Prehistoric people were still evolving from a more generalized, archaic human morphology, so there's no reason to expect that they be exactly the same as their modern descendants. It's clear enough from the passage following the above quote that Stringer and McKie are not implying Negroid affinities:

It is a confused picture and suggests that racial differences were still developing relatively recently, and should be viewed as a very new part of the human condition. It is an important point, for it shows that humanity's modern African origin does not imply derivation from people like current Africans, because these populations must have also changed through the impact of evolution over the past 100,000 years.

And despite what Brace et al. conclude, their data still groups Cro-Magnon and Upper Paleolithic Europeans (blue) much closer to later and modern Western Eurasians than to Sub-Saharan Africans (red), while they acknowledge that prehistoric populations are distinguished by being "noticeably more robust than more recent human groups":

This robustness that links all prehistoric humans is likely what accounts for most misclassifications and the opinion that there lacks continuity with modern populations. But another factor is the condition of the skulls being analyzed. Jantz and Owsley (2003) found that poorly preserved, highly incomplete Upper Paleolithic crania are often misclassified as African, while those that have a large number of measurements show the expected European affinities:

Some of the discordance Van Vark et al. see between genetic and morphometric results may be attributable to their methodological choices. It is clear that the affiliation expressed by a given skull is not independent of the number of measurements taken from it. From their Table 3, it is evident that those skulls expressing Norse affinity are the most complete and have the highest number of measurements ( = 50.8), while those expressing affinity to African populations (Bushman or Zulu) are the most incomplete, averaging just 16.8 measurements per skull. Use of highly incomplete or reconstructed crania may not yield a good estimate of their morphometric affinities. When one considers only those crania with 40 or more measurements, a majority express European affinity.

To examine this idea further, we use the eight Upper Paleolithic crania available from the test series of Howells (1995), all of which are complete. Our analysis of these eight, based on 55 measurements, is presented in Table 1. Using raw measurements, 6 of 8 express an affinity to Norse, and with the shape variables of Darroch and Mosimann (1985), 5 of 8 express a similarity to Norse. Using shape variables reduces the Mahalanobis distance, substantially in some cases. Typicality probabilities, particularly for the shape variables, show the crania to be fairly typical of recent populations. The results presented in Table 1 are consistent with the idea that Upper Paleolithic crania are, for the most part, larger and more generalized versions of recent Europeans. Howells (1995) reached a similar conclusion with respect to European Mesolithic crania.

That seems to be the general consensus, and Howells (1997) just comes right out and says it without mincing any words:

If Upper Paleolithic people were "European" from about 35,000 B.P., then such population distinctions are at least that old. And the Cro-Magnons were already racially European, i.e., Caucasoid. This has always been accepted because of the general appearance of the skulls: straight faces, narrow noses, and so forth. It is also possible to test this arithmetically. [...] Except for Predmosti 4, which is distant from every present and past population, all of these skulls show themselves to be closer to "Europeans" than to other peoples — Mladec and Abri Pataud comfortably so, the other two much more remotely.

Effects of Climate on European History

February 1, 2011

A new study of temperature and precipitation levels over the past 2500 years shows that periods of prosperity and decline throughout European history correlate with environmental changes affecting agriculture, health and conflict. This should give pause to those who still subscribe to old "racialist" theories based on superiority and miscegenation.

2500 Years of European Climate Variability and Human Susceptibility

Ulf Büntgen et al. (2011)

Climate variations have influenced the agricultural productivity, health risk, and conflict level of preindustrial societies. Discrimination between environmental and anthropogenic impacts on past civilizations, however, remains difficult because of the paucity of high-resolution palaeoclimatic evidence. Here, we present tree ring-based reconstructions of Central European summer precipitation and temperature variability over the past 2500 years. Recent warming is unprecedented, but modern hydroclimatic variations may have at times been exceeded in magnitude and duration. Wet and warm summers occurred during periods of Roman and medieval prosperity. Increased climate variability from ~AD 250 to 600 coincided with the demise of the Western Roman Empire and the turmoil of the Migration Period. Historical circumstances may challenge recent political and fiscal reluctance to mitigate projected climate change.


AMJ [April-June] precipitation was generally above average and fluctuated within fairly narrow margins from the Late Iron Age through most of the Roman Period until ~AD 250, whereas two depressions in JJA [June-August] temperature coincided with the Celtic Expansion ~350 BC and the Roman Conquest ~50 BC. Exceptional climate variability is reconstructed for AD ~250-550, and coincides with some of the most severe challenges in Europe's political, social and economic history, the MP [Migration Period]. Distinct drying in the 3rd century paralleled a period of serious crisis in the WRE [Western Roman Empire] marked by barbarian invasion, political turmoil and economic dislocation in several provinces of Gaul, including Belgica, Germania superior and Rhaetia. Precipitation increased during the recovery of the WRE in the 300s under the dynasties of Constantine and Valentinian, while temperatures were below average. Precipitation surpassed early imperial levels during the demise of the WRE in the 5th century before dropping sharply in the first half of the 6th century. At the same time, falling lake levels in Europe and Africa accompanied hemispheric-scale cooling that has been linked with an explosive, near equatorial volcanic eruption in AD 536, followed by the first pandemic of Justinian plague that spread from the Eastern Mediterranean in AD 542/543. Rapid climate changes together with frequent epidemics had the overall capacity to disrupt the food production of agrarian societies. Most of the oak samples from this period originate from archaeological excavations of water wells and sub-fossil remains currently located in floodplains and wetlands, possibly attesting drier conditions during their colonization.

AMJ precipitation and JJA temperature began to increase from the end of the 6th century and reached climate conditions comparable to those of the Roman period in the early 800s. The onset of wetter and warmer summers is contemporaneous with the societal consolidation of new kingdoms that developed in the former WRE. Reduced climate variability from ~AD 700-1000, relative to its surroundings, matches the new and sustained demographic growth in the northwest European countryside, and even the establishment of Norse colonies in the cold environments of Iceland and Greenland. Humid and mild summers paralleled the rapid cultural and political growth of medieval Europe under the Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties and their successors. Average precipitation and temperature showed fewer fluctuations during the ~AD 1000-1200 period of peak medieval demographic and economic growth. Wetter summers during the 13th and 14th centuries and a first cold spell ~1300 agree with the globally observed onset of the Little Ice Age, likely contributing to widespread famine across CE [Central Europe]. Unfavorable climate may have even played a role in debilitating the underlying health conditions that contributed to the devastating economic crisis that arose from the second plague pandemic, the Black Death, which reduced the CE population after AD 1347 by 40-60%. The period is also associated with a temperature decline in the North Atlantic and the abrupt desertion of former Greenland settlements. Temperature minima in the early 17th and 19th centuries accompanied sustained settlement abandonment during the Thirty Years' War and the modern migrations from Europe to America.

Fig. 4. Reconstructed AMJ precipitation totals (Top) and JJA temperature anomalies (Bottom) (wrt 1901-2000). Error bars are +/− 1 RMSE of the calibration periods. Black lines show independent precipitation and temperature reconstructions from Germany and Switzerland. Bold lines are 60-year low-pass filters. Periods of demographic expansion, economic prosperity and societal stability, as well as political turmoil, cultural change and population instability are marked (green and grey text).

Link (PDF)